The transformational power of the Holy Name as stated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
A long time ago, I was in jail. Not as a convict but for a preaching program. I conducted a Kirtan for all the prisoners. One among them finally stood up and asked, “the mantra says Hare Krishna and Hare Rama, you’re singing “Hare Ramo.” All of his co inmates were amazed by his doubt. They were proud to have found a pandit among them. Haridas Thakur in Chaitanya Caritamtra says that in whatever way the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is uttered has a certain impact. Not pertaining merely to pronunciation, but also the level of understanding and consciousness it is chanted in carries the potency of the Lord.
The story of Ajamil is a great example of this. Although born as a Brahmin, he got attracted to a prostitute and decided to continue his life enjoying all kinds of sense gratification. He went on to commit several sinful activities until his time of death. While about to leave his body, with affection he called out to his son Narayana, who was named after the Lord. Both Yama dutas and the Vishnu dutas were there debating whether to take Ajamil to hell for his sins or to the Supreme abode for utter Lord’s name at the time of death. Although not chanted with proper consciousness, Ajamil still was reaping the benefits of chanting the holy name of the Lord.
Because the Lord’s holy name is like a fire. Just because a child is approaching to touch the fire, the fire doesn’t change its natural property of burning. It indeed burns the finger of the child. Likewise, anything material can never change the supreme potency of the holy names of the Lord.
In Kali, the Lord advent himself in the form of his holy names. The yuga dharma for this age is to perform Sankirtana Yagna, congregational chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names offered as a sacrifice. Thus, it is vital to understand the importance of chanting and how transformative it can be in all our lives.
The first verse of sikshastakam, the only instructions personally left by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu speaks of the different stages of effects experienced in chanting the Lord’s holy names. The fire of sankirtana Yagna is compared to the seven tongues of a flame.
- Cleansing of the dust in the mirror – Ceto darpana marjanam
Consciousness is like a mirror. The soul sees itself reflecting through this mirror. But what if the mirror is covered with thick layers of dust? This dust is referred to in Bhagavad Gita as Kama or Lust indicating – I’m the enjoyer, and I’m the controller. Originally, however, the soul’s nature is to be a servant of the Lord. The first tongue of sankirtana yagna cleanses the consciousness of all the accumulated dust of impressions carried through innumerable lifetimes.
We all as spirit souls possess the desire to serve. But it has bars that distort our path to servitude. And we’re trapped within the jail of misery. Of course, these bars pull us in different directions toward sense enjoyments. The free world on the other side of the bars awards a means to be not under the control of senses. The attempts to enjoy more and more will get us stuck in a cycle of birth and death.
2) Extinguishes the Forest Fire – Bhava mahā dāvāgni nirvāpanam
The material existence is referred to as forest fire here, and the Lord’s holy names have the potency to extinguish this wildfire. Why exactly is material existence compared to forest fire here? Nobody can figure out how a blazing fire in a forest starts, but it does and devastates an entire ecosystem. If we assume that we are not in the middle of forest fire (material miseries) then it is purely because of misunderstanding the material nature.
This material creation came into being because of our desires/icha. Free will when misused is the beginning of material existence, as the soul is trying to create desires independent of the Supreme Lord. The Jiva may ignite the fire, but he can’t put out the fire. That help needs to come from spiritual guides and Krishna. Therefore, the harinam sankirtan coming from the discipline succession rains on the top of the fire and extinguishes every burning material desires.
3) śreyah kairava candrikā vitaranam – chanting is the moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all
Sreya refers to auspiciousness, kairava to white lotus and chandrika to a moon. After extinguishing the forest fire, the harinam sankirtan acts as moonshine to cool the heat waves of material existence that is still burning us. The moonshine purifies our lusty desires, and blossoms the consciousness with real genuine welfare of the soul.
However, the taste for harinam or harikatha isn’t instantly developed. Initially, one may find it exceedingly difficult to even chant one round. But later, as one progresses, the unwanted desires fade away and consciousness is slowly purified, and then one can seriously practice his sadhana. The same goes for hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, and other such pastimes of the Lord. In the beginning, as soon as the speaker gets to reading the purport of Srila Prabhupada, nidra devi manifests herself in their faces. Yet, this process of hearing has the power to penetrate through the layers of material modes of nature and touches our souls with transcendental vibrations.
4) Knowledge – Vidya Vadhu Jivanam
Vidya – knowledge is compared to vadhu a newly married bride. Just like how a husband gives shelter to a wife, the harinam sankirtan is giving shelter and bringing life to jivanam. In the association of harinam, the transcendental knowledge gets fructified just like how the husband and wife together cooperate to execute their duties. Pure unalloyed devotional service is the total of all knowledge. And this knowledge is realized only when the Lord’s names are sung and the Lord is served with love. That is the power of the Holy Name. It makes one develop an attachment to Krsna, just like how a wife is attached to her husband.
5) Ocean of bliss – Anandam buddhih vardhanam
Harinam sankirtan expands us to the ocean of bliss. Who doesn’t like to experience bliss? Until the last heading, we saw different stages of bhakti till asakht. At this point, the anchor of material life is shifted and the ship goes into the ocean and it starts experiencing what is known as bhava where spontaneous attachment towards Krishna is expressed and that is the total of what Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu mercifully appeared in the age of Kali to demonstrate and through his pastimes.
Hare Krishna Mahamantra can create a total revolutionary churning within our consciousness and help us experience submersion into this ocean of bliss that Mahaprabhu gave. It ridicules liberation or mukti. So, therefore all of us are aspiring to free ourselves from issues, but this bliss takes us beyond all
Problem-solving techniques. In other words, this anandam doesn’t care for a problem-free life.
6) Nectar – Pratipadam purna amritam
The harinam sankirtan helps us taste the nectar every step we move closer to the Lord by chanting his holy names. Amrit also means immortality. That is the essential thing we want to acquire also. Because the soul is inherently eternal and is always united with God in his service. This nectar of Krishna prema is what we’re looking for in every moment of our lives. These last two stages refer to the purest form of love, Krishna prema.
7) Sarvātma snapanam – Pure Love
The ultimate goal of human life is to achieve pure love for God. Sarvatma indicates that our consciousness is completely submerged in the ocean of unalloyed pure love for Krishna. And this is attained through the serious practice of harinam sankirtan. When a soul is submerged in love for Krishna, Krishna too reciprocates and he too gets sunk in the ocean of love for his devotee. this way, both soak in an infinite amount of ecstasy.
We all have a little bit of faith stuck somewhere in our hearts. We can start with that and slowly from sradhha we can attain the pure love of Krishna. The step g condensed ray of devotional faith will emerge from us. The holy name pierces beyond all layers of this material universe and opens our hearts to the spiritual world of Goloka Vrindavan. The final words param vijayate is how successfully the harinama has burnt all material desires from our heart and has gained victory in ultimately desiring nothing but pure love of Godhead.